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News from the Virginia Conference - October 8, 2019

Sign up now for conference fall youth retreat
In divided times it's easier to stick with our tribe, our comfort. Jesus offers another way that seems harder but could change the world! The conference Center for Next Generation Ministries can't wait to see the youth for the conference youth retreat on Nov. 15. Join hundreds of middle and high school youth exploring what it takes and what it looks like to be ONE! Spots are limited this year, so move quickly. Find updates, speaker bios, and videos at For questions, email or call 804-521-1135.

Share your favorite Christmas/Advent hymns in final Advocate magazine
The final Advocate magazine, the December Advocate, will share stories about hymns sung for the Advent and Christmas seasons. Share with us: what are your favorite songs to sing at Advent and Christmas? What songs are meaningful to you during these seasons or have a special memory attached to them? Send your thoughts to by Oct. 21.

2020 Initiatives of Hope pilgrimage heads to Cambodia
Travel with the Rev. Glenn Rowley, director of the conference Center for Justice and Missional Excellence, to visit the rapidly-growing Methodist Church of Cambodia (MCC) from Jan. 25- Feb. 8, 2020. You will experience the energetic faith of Cambodian Christians while visiting several churches, schools, dormitories, and mission projects of the MCC. You will have opportunities to share your faith, learn about the strength of a mission partnership and  experience the beauty of this ancient culture tempered by a history affected by war and genocide.Cost is $1,850 which includes airfare, hotel rooms, ground transportation, meals and emergency health/accident insurance. There are only 10 spots available. For details and to apply to go, contact Rowley at or 804-521-1143.

10 ways church leaders can support people with mental illnesses
Many congregations and pastors know how to support people with chronic physical illnesses, but struggle with ways to reach out to those with mental illnesses. During October, Mental Illness Awareness Month, consider what steps you and your church can take.  Learn more at the link from United Methodist Communications. More... 

Cabinet issues updated policy on clergy salary increases
Effective Sept. 1, 2019, charge conferences may give Cost of Living Increases (COLA) (2.6 percent in 2019) for clergy for the year 2020, if the church/charge has improved by a minimum of 10 percent in their conference and district apportionment giving in 2018. For charge conferences 2020, setting salaries for 2021, another cost of living increase may be given for churches/charges that have improved by an additional 10 percent in their conference and district apportionment giving in 2019, provided a written plan to work toward paying 100 percent as soon as possible has been approved by the district superintendent. The Cabinet will revisit this policy in June 2021 for the 2021 charge conferences, for 2022 salaries. District superintendents have discretion to call special charge conferences in January 2020, if churches/charges who did not improve 10 percent in 2018, but do improve 10 percent in 2019, so that clergy may receive a COLA increase for 2020. As per current policy, churches/charges that pay 100 percent of their conference and district apportionments may give unrestricted salary increases to their clergy. More...

2020 dates announced for All God's Children Camp
All God's Children Camp 2020 dates are set!  At camp, children, ages 7 to 12, with an incarcerated mother or father, spend a week at camp, participating in activities such as boating, swimming, hiking, archery, music, crafts, Bible study, and conflict resolution.  Partnering with Virginia United Methodist camps, All God’s Children Camp provides a week of sanctuary for children who face so many challenges in their lives: economic poverty; temporary living conditions; loneliness; low self-esteem; violence; and drugs.
Check out the dates below and then pray about becoming one of the 90 mentors needed to make this summer possible. After that, download the mentor application and send it to the address on the application form.
June 14-19 @ Camp Chanco on the James (Richmond area)
July 26-31 @ Occohannock on the Bay (Eastern Shore)
August 9-14 @Camp Chanco on the James (Richmond area)

For more information, contact Lori Smith at or 571-245-9591.  Visit the website at for more information and to download applications.

Join UMMen for United Methodist Give Day
Join the conference United Methodist Men on Oct. 21 for United Methodist Give Day. Learn more about how to take part and give at the link. More...

Common Table offering local church ministry grants
The Rev. Dr. Ted Smith, Virginia Conference Director of Connectional Ministries, is pleased to announce the availability of grant funds specifically for new local church ministries. The grant is a Special Ministries Grant for the 2020 calendar year. Fund eligibility includes: ministries that are specifically through local churches, ministries that began in the 2019 calendar year or proposed 2020 ministries, ministries that have not previously been funded by any conference funding organizations. Funds are also limited below the normal $10,000 grant level. Applications are available at and should be submitted by Nov. 1 to be considered.

Help provide aid to Bahamas through UMCOR
As Hurricane Dorian wreaked havoc on the Bahamas, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) awarded a solidarity grant to Bahamas Methodist Habitat, the Disaster Ministry of the Bahamas Conference of the Methodist Church. This grant provides immediate, emergency short-term funding to address the basic human needs of those affected by this catastrophic storm. You can join with UMCOR by donating to our disaster response and recovery funds. Thank you for your continued prayers and support.
Give to International Disaster Response and Recovery (Advance # 982450)
Give to United States Disaster Response and Recovery (Advance # 901670

Upcoming events for youth, young adults
Exploration 2019, Nov. 1-3, is an event for college students who are exploring a call into ministry. Exploration creates sacred space for young adults, ages 18-26, to be in meaningful fellowship, passionate worship,theological reflection, and practical workshops as they discern whether God’s call on their life is to ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church and what faithful steps they can take in response. For more information, go to Exploration 2019 or contact Joanna Dietz in the Center for Clergy Excellence at

Valuing the Voices in Our Church is an opportunity for high school  sophomores, juniors, and seniors to come together to explore their own gifts and graces for leadership, consider what vocation God is calling them to and to hear and grow in appreciation of a diverse chorus of voices who are leading in the church today. Participants will gather at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. on Saturday, Oct. 26. The remaining meetings will be virtual throughout the year. For more information, go to Valuing the Voices in Our Church.

Scholarships and Loans are available for seminarians. Contact Joanna Dietz ( in the Center for Clergy Excellence for more information about scholarships and loans or either of the above events. Due date for scholarships and loans is Oct. 13. More...

Upcoming open houses at Wesley Theological Seminary to answer questions about 'call'
While it is a challenging time in the church, there are still people called by God to ministry. Wesley Theological Seminary said it believes God's call is constant, and Wesley wants to be there to answer their questions on being formed to serve God's church and world. If you know someone struggling with a call or has questions about seminary, encourage them to attend Wesley’s upcoming event, "Window on Wesley," on Oct. 15. They’ll experience a class, meet professors and students, and experience the Wesley community of faith and learning. Visit link for more information and to register. More... 

Goodson Preaching Academy presenting one-day event
The Goodson Academy of Preaching presents a one-day event “Preaching Through Troubling Times,” with keynote speaker Rev. Dr. John W. Kinney.  The event will be held Monday, Oct. 14, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Providence UMC in Chesterfield. Cost for the day is $35, which includes lunch; 0.5 CEU is available. Contact the Rev. Mandy Newman at or (757) 630-6518 with questions. More... 

Applications now open for Foundation grants
Now is the time for churches, districts and ministries across the conference to consider how they may apply for available grants from the Foundation. The deadline for completed applications is Oct. 31, 2019.  Distributions will be made in January 2020. To learn more about Foundation grants, you may visit:

United Methodist churches invited to Unwrap Christmas in communities around the globe
When it comes to what matters most at Christmas, people say that it’s spending time with family and friends. United Methodist Communications’ 2019 Unwrap Christmas event campaign is designed to help local churches offer meaningful places for people to connect with one another throughout the Advent season. United Methodist Communications is supporting these outreach efforts by offering event grants and other resources to local United Methodist churches. Congregations are encouraged to plan events, such as free cocoa stands in busy shopping areas, toy giveaway or food packaging experiences, holiday music concerts in parks or live Nativity scenes, as a way to connect people with faith communities. Grant recipients will receive promotional items and resources for the events. Congregations that are interested in hosting an Unwrap Christmas event may apply for a limited number of event grants while they are still available. Even without an event grant, churches can host an Unwrap Christmas event using a planning guide developed by United Methodist Communications to make organizing for Advent outreach simple. In addition to the Unwrap Christmas events, United Methodist Communications is offering customizable Advent resources to all churches. A limited number of $300 grants to offset the costs of the invitational items are available. Learn more at

Learn more about 5 Talent Academy fall event
The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis will be one of the presenters at the 5 Talent Academy event on Thursday,  Nov. 14. This event will be livestreamed 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. from Woodlake UMC and 11 satellite locations around the state. Lewis is senior minister at Middle Collegiate Church, a 1,100-member multiethnic, welcoming, and inclusive congregation in New York City.  To register, visit For more information, contact the Center for Congregational Excellence at 804.521.1155 or

Five-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation event to be held in 2020
"Songs for the Journey" will be the theme for the Virginia Five-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation event from Mar. 15-20, 2020. The event will be held at the Roslyn Retreat Center in Richmond and will be a week of renewal, worship, prayer and learning with faculty, Dr. Don E. Saliers and Rabbi Rachel Barenblat. More... 

Register now for The Big Silence Retreat
Register now for The Big Silence Retreat, a four-day, mostly silent retreat offering a deeper experience of solitude, silence, and prayer at the beautiful St. Francis Springs Prayer Center in Stoneville, N.C., from Sunday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 19-22, 2020. Start the new year off right by setting an inner course of connection with God to support your life and ministry in the months to come. Praying the hours in community is complemented by a variety of silent prayer practices and wonderful spaces just to be present with the Spirit. More... 

Learn more about Convergence 2020
The Convergence High School Youth Theology Institute on faith and science brought 37 high school students to Randolph-Macon College this past June to discover where their Christian beliefs and scientific principles intersect. Convergence 2020 will be held June 20-28, 2020. Applications and nominations for current 9th, 10th, and 11th-grade students interested in participating in Convergence 2020 are open now on the website. The cost to participate is only $400 for this 9-day program. Upon high school graduation, if a Convergence participant chooses to attend Randolph-Macon, they will receive a $1,000 annual scholarship for each year they participated in Convergence.  Please contact the Rev. Kendra Grimes or Laura Ruxton ( with any questions about the program. More...


Breaking up would be hard to do
Will the 2020 United Methodist General Conference bring everyone back to the table or will delegates go off in their own corners to divide the church? At issue is the denomination’s now 47-year-long debate about the role of LGBTQ people in church leadership. The phrase that has brought the church to the brink of breaking up was introduced into church law in 1972 when the denomination’s top lawmaking body declared the practice of homosexuality was “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Every General Conference since that 1972 gathering has debated that phrase. But at the end of the day, the language has stayed in the United Methodist Book of Discipline, the denomination’s policy book. Also, church law has stated no “self-avowed practicing” gay person may be ordained, no same-sex marriage ceremonies can be held in a United Methodist church and no United Methodist clergy can officiate at a same-sex union. However, the church policy book states LGBTQ people are welcome in all United Methodist churches and are of “sacred worth.” The debate reached a crescendo in 2016 and the whole issue was put on pause. The Council of Bishops was asked to appoint a commission to come up with a way forward to present at a special called General Conference. More...

Methodists in Bahamas cope with Dorian’s trauma
The Rev. Kenneth Lewis, a Freeport resident and superintendent of the Grand Bahama Circuit for the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas, experienced his first hurricane when he was five years old. Of all the hurricanes he has lived through, he declared that Dorian “was the worst by far.” Even in Freeport, two miles outside the hurricane’s eye, Dorian was a punishing experience, with four days of hurricane-force winds, including a battering 48-hour period as the storm sat still. About a dozen people — Lewis and his wife, Dularie, and extended family members — rode out Dorian in the house he had built after a hurricane in 2004, with its expandable metal hurricane straps, planted inside reinforced concrete, tied to steel and nailed to the roof’s wooden frame. Solar batteries kept the lights on and fans running when needed.  Still, Lewis feared the roof would come off his home, leaving them with no place to go. “I prayed every minute of the storm,” he told UM News. Hurricane Dorian’s lingering impact, after first striking the Bahamas on Sept. 1, has been vast devastation, the displacement of tens of thousands of residents and an official death toll of 56. On Sept. 28, nearly a month later, the estimate of those missing was adjusted from 1,300 to 600. More... 

Curriculum is key in Sunday schools
When you really think about it, the story of Noah’s ark is disturbing. An angry God drowns all of civilization with a massive flood. The only ones saved are Noah, his family and the animals he takes with him. Everybody else dies. Now try to think how you would tell that story to a Sunday school class without giving children nightmares about floods. “Churches love talking about that story with kids because it’s got rainbows — and rainbows are fun — and lots of animals,” said Brittany Sky, senior editor for children’s resources at United Methodist Publishing House. “But the story itself is very difficult,” she said. “We try to make sure what we’re teaching is age-appropriate and as they get older, they do deal with harder texts.” More...

Church shines spotlight on violence against women
More than 100 United Methodists dressed in black and blue marched to say “enough is enough” in regards to rape and gender-based violence, which is on the rise in South Africa. The peaceful protest took place Sept. 14 in Bhizane in the Makukhanye District of the South Africa Conference. The march came on the heels of a Cape Town rally in which thousands of women marched to parliament to protest rising violence against women. According to national crime statistics released by the South African Police Services, sexual offenses increased by 4.6% from April 2018 to March 2019. About 3,000 women were murdered in South Africa in 2018, according to the World Health Organization. “Rape and gender violence has become a normality within our society that it hardly makes headlines in the national media,” said Bulelwa Ndedwa, a United Methodist deaconess who led the rally. “But recent attacks have shocked everyone in the congregation and community.” She spoke about a string of murders that have haunted the community over the past two months, including the deaths of four children who were allegedly killed by their father. More...

5 Talent Academy fall event- Nov. 13,14
The theme for this year’s 5 Talent event is Engage 2019: Community Transformation.  There are two events: one just for clergy and one for clergy and laity.
Wednesday, Nov. 13 will be a Clergy-only Pre-event at Woodlake UMC and will feature Bishop Ken Carter, Florida Conference UMC.  He will speak about redefining the UM connection and evangelism, the role of fresh expressions, and how to shape missional relationships in the current cultural landscape.
Thursday, Nov. 14 will be the main Clergy and Laity event at Woodlake UMC and livestreamed to 11 satellite locations around the state.  Bishop Carter will be preaching and speakers will be the Rev. Michael Adam Beck, Wildwood UMC, Wildwood, Fla.; the Rev. Jaqueline Lewis, Middle Collegiate Church, New York, N.Y.; and the Rev. Andy and the Rev. Anjie Woodworth, Neighborhood Church, Atlanta, Ga.  They will address what it looks like to be a neighborhood church, what is a community partner, and what is a fresh expression. If you plan to attend in a group from your church, every fifth person in a group registration goes free. Fees for the events are as follows: Nov. 14 event - $35; Nov. 13 & 14 events - $60; Nov. 13 event only - $50. Registration prices increase after Sept. 30.  To register, visit For questions, contact MaryKaye Cochran at

For in-depth news and features about United Methodist mission and ministry, subscribe to the Virginia United Methodist Advocate, the Virginia Conference’s award-winning monthly magazine — now available in both print and digital formats. Click here to subscribe. Or call the Communications office at 1-800-768-6040, ext. 110, or (804) 521-1110. Or email For information about the Virginia Conference and resources for ministry, visit the Virginia Conference website at

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